“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…” (Ephesians 5:22-23)
I recently had a discussion with a friend about what it means for a man to be the head of the house. I agreed with most everything that was said, especially that a home without a man filling his proper role is destined for hardship or failure.
However, when discussing verses like Ephesians 5:22-23, my friend believes they are no longer relevant in our culture, due to the ‘liberation’ of women. My friend believes Paul wrote these verses and the ones like them because of the extremely pro-masculine culture in which he lived. My friend believes we must interpret these verses from the context of the cultural climate in which they were written.
While I have tremendous respect for my friend’s beliefs and moral adherence to the Word of God, I cannot bring myself to share this view of the Scripture.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
So Paul couldn’t have been merely writing down his opinion which was biased by his culture. He wrote as he was inspired by God to write.
Therefore, to answer the question of the relevance of these verses to us in our day and time, we should look closely at Ephesians 5:22-23. Consider what the Bible teaches that the marriage relationship represents: marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church is the Bride, or Wife, of Christ. To understand our roles in the marriage relationship, we must then, examine the Church’s relationship to Christ. Paul does precisely this in verse 23, where he writes, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…”
Are we Christ’s Bride? The answer is: Yes.
Is He the Head, or Authority, in our lives? The answer is: Yes, without question, Yes. Paul says the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the Head of the Church.
If Christ’s relationship or position has not changed with the culture, then why has the relationship or position of the husband changed? The answer: It hasn’t.
Although some wish it has, because of many a man’s gross misuse of his headship or authority. However, authority itself is not the problem. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Rather, it is the misuse of authority or authoritarianism that is evil. Many women over the years have been abused by misinformed men who thought God gave them the right to subjugate their wives both physically and mentally.
Again, we must examine Christ’s relationship to His Bride to rightly understand our relationship to our bride:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25)
As Christ gave Himself for His Bride, so must a man give himself for his wife.
How did Christ use His Authority? As a servant; Jesus said:
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.” (Matthew 20:25)
“But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;” (Matthew 20:26)
“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:” (Matthew 20:27)
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister…” (Matthew 20:28)
I have seen the authority of the husband compared to the authority of a quarterback on a football team. If you are not a sports fan, please bear with me. Peyton Manning, in my opinion, is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Wes Walker, a wide receiver on Peyton’s team, is one of the NFL’s top receivers. Now, in the huddle, it is Peyton who receives the plays from the coach and relays them to the team. Once the players are lined up in formation, it is Peyton’s job to survey the field and identity the defense before him. Peyton alone has been given the authority to ‘call an audible,’ or change the play, if the situation warrants a change.
I have never seen a wide receiver, in the midst of the quarterback changing the play, protest saying, ‘That’s the stupidest call I’ve ever heard in my life!’ Instead, the players work together as a team to achieve the same goal: to win. They run the play as the quarterback calls it. Sometimes the quarterback makes the right decision and they score a touchdown. Sometimes the quarterback makes a terrible miscalculation, and the play fails. Sometimes the play goes off without a hitch. Sometimes it’s the right play at the right moment, but it’s the receiver who drops the ball.
In any case, the team members understand their roles and work together to win the game. Does this mean the quarterback never listens to his teammates’ feedback? Or course not. A good quarterback will consider the well-being of his teammates before his own.
Like Paul, I understand:
“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
I don’t claim to fully understand all there is about marriage and the Church; but I do know that we are One with Christ, as he is One with the Father. There is perfect unity in the Trinity. Yet Christ submitted to the Father. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.”
Christ was able to submit to, or put himself under, the authority of the Father and still be equal with the Father. The servant is not greater than the master.
As it is with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; so let it be between the husband and the wife. Each member having its separate office, but working together to achieve a common goal, considering “…one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24).